Kate Nash returns to music with a new glow
It’s Easter weekend, and Kate Nash has released her first album in five years. And someone just broke the news that the work’s initial reviews from her native country have been less than kind.
“So?” she responds. “I don’t care. It’s the first time I feel like, ‘Oh! That’s weird. It’s such a good album. I don’t get it?”
While she hasn’t resurrected herself from the dead, the British popstar’s levels of confidence are back with a vengeance. The release the other week of “Yesterday Was Forever,” the popstar-turned-“Glow”-actor’s fourth album and first to be crowdfunded via Kickstarter, is giving Nash and her rabid fanbase a new lease on life.
In her words, the past decade has been riddled with what she describes as “terrible experiences” in music. When she broke out at the age of 18 with cheeky pop single “Foundations” in 2007, she was heralded as ‘the next big thing’ during an era of young, mouthy artists like Lily Allen and Jamie T.
Her 2007 debut, “Made Of Bricks,” won the Brit Award for female artist. She rebelled on her follow-up, 2010’s “My Best Friend is You,” which was rooted in riot grrrl influences. She delved further into punk with her third LP, 2013’s “Girl Talk,” but she ultimately found out via text message that her label would be parting ways with her.
Yet today she’s a woman freed from industry shackles and she’s unafraid, uncensored and pretty swear-y about how all of that makes her feel. “I’ve had zero expectations for this,” she says of the new album. “I just wanted to put it out. I’ve been trying for so long.”
Nash celebrated the album’s release with a house party at her new spot in Atwater Village. The night ended with a group of creative, like-minded women hugging and singing along to Alanis Morissette. In some ways the party was a bigger deal for Nash than the album. It signified her renewed faith in humanity.
“I’ve been so open my whole life, but after my last breakup and with everything I’ve been through, I was questioning everyone,” she said. “I became really anti-social.”
Her survival of the ups and downs has given her the c’est la vie attitude about her latest body of work, one that harks back to her initial love of pop.
“I’m not in it for the same reasons,” she explains. “I had to change my concept of success. Success and fame never fill your cup.”
Looking around at her peers, Nash noticed that she wasn’t alone.
“Every artist feels like they’re failing. Most people I know are struggling in the industry. I’m outside of the industry.”
Nash today is happy. “I love the record. We’re going on tour. It’s such a sigh of relief to know I worked my career back from where it was. I was trapped.”
When Nash arrived in L.A. four years ago she soaked up the city’s optimism. She started Girl Gang, an activist organization providing a community for women, she entered the songwriting world and wrote for other artists (she wrote Rita Ora’s “Poison” with hitmaker Julia Michaels) and even auditioned for TV roles.
She also worked on ideas for a future album. Her self-worth, however, hit an all-time low in 2016. Past demons were still unresolved, and she retreated to Harrow in North London where she grew up.
She rode her moped, sat in the park alone, and worked all night setting up a Kickstarter with the hope of being able to have an active music career again. By trial and error she worked out how to engage her still active fanbase across social media. “People don’t know anything unless you shove it down their throats,” she says.
Ultimately, it was Netflix series “Glow,” a drama about female wrestlers, that brought her back to the West Coast. Nash portrays the model-turned-wrestler Rhonda Richardson.
“I got a job!” she laughs. “Glow” was more than just a job — the role changed her life. The camaraderie of the all-female cast and the wrestling training gave her renewed mental fight. The cast’s trainer, Chavo Guerrero, taught the actresses to think about their bodies in the opposite way to how women are conditioned.
“To have a body that has a purpose was mind blowing,” she says. “Chavo tells you to be bigger, louder, crazier. All these things you’ve been told not to be.”
The series altered her perspective on ambition. “It isn’t about failing or succeeding but doing,” she says. Alongside her therapy and a positive affirmations board she had at home, “Glow” gave her the confidence to go through with the Kickstarter.
“I thought, ‘If I do a Kickstarter and I don’t raise the money, then I’m a failure on top of a failure.’ I realized I’m not a failure; I’m just a person who is doing what you gotta do to make art a career. It takes courage to get to a point of knowing you’re OK if it doesn’t work.”
While Nash today has a breezy approach to her own music, she does worry about the younger signed acts who seek her out for advice about never getting paid or having middle men compromise their creativity.
“You shouldn’t have to have your lawyer fighting your record label to give you money that you’re owed,” she says, exasperated. “And if I have to hear the question ‘What’s your sound?’ one more time… That’s an A&R person trying to sound current. Listen to their voice. What do you think their sound is? They stick artists in rooms with songwriters and producers who are trying to find their ‘sound.’ I’ve written songs in those rooms. One week it’s, ‘Selena Gomez, love this, it’s so her’. Next: ‘Well, actually, it’s more Demi [Lovato].’”
Her tip to other artists is to empower and validate themselves. “Build your own culture, focus on your fanbase,” she says. “I hope other people can get out. They’re all gonna get [screwed] over, if they aren’t already.”
Not that the Nash way doesn’t come with its own huge risks. Tomorrow she sets off on a U.S. tour, and she’s put her money where her mouth is.
“Touring is another whole world of ‘Where’s the bank?’” she says. “It’s so expensive. I’m funding this tour, and that’s scary. But it’s worth it, and it’s gonna be fine.” Is it selling well? “I don’t know,” she laughs. “We’ll see.”
Nash says ever since she was a kid she’s been determined. “I’m a Cancer, a crab. I have trouble letting go,” she laughs, digging her nails into the side of a wall.
Before Nash wanted to be a popstar, her ambition was to be an Olympic swimmer. “But I had asthma,” she says. Despite that, she always swam in competitions. She may not have been the fastest, but she did the most lengths.
“I was slow and steady and in it for the long run.”
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday (April 10)
Where: Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd.
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.